Cuba Response to  U.S. Campaign Against Cuba’s Medical Missions

During 2019, the U.S. has engaged in verbal attacks on Cuban medical missions around the world while Cuba withdrew thousands of its medical personnel from Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia, resulting in major financial losses for the Cuban government. [1]

On December 18, Cuba’s “Johana Tablada, deputy director of North American affairs for Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, said Trump administration officials have pressured Latin American governments to end the medical support programs, hurting health care in those countries.”[2]

Such U.S. actions, said Tablada, have “crossed the red line of decency by taking the foreign relations of the United States to levels of hypocrisy and double standards that none of his predecessors have done.” He also accused the U.S. of trying to destabilize Cuba in order to distract attention from the impeachment process against Trump.

As has been explained several times in this blog, one of the most outrageous and invalid U.S. allegations against the program is the assertion that the Cuban doctors and other medical personnel serving in various countries around the world are engaged in illegal forced labor or “modern day slavery.” The U.S. immediately should cease such accusations. Mere repetition does not make them valid.

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[1] Cuba Ministry Foreign Affairs, U.S. Crusade Against Cuban international medical cooperation, Granma (Dec. 6, 2019).

[2] Assoc. Press, Cuba Blasts US Over End of Medical Missions in Some Nations, (Dec. 18, 2019).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Litigation Over Cuba Medical Mission Program

On November 30, 2018, five Cuban doctors who had been on Cuban medical missions in Brazil filed a class action against PAHO alleging that it had “collected over $75 million since 2013 by enabling, managing, and enforcing illegal human trafficking [in Brazil] of Cuban medical professionals,” who were paid “10% or less of the fees the Brazilian Government paid PAHO for their services, while PAHO paid at least 85% to the Cuban Government” and retained 5% for its services. The 85-page complaint alleges violations of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (18 U.S.C. sec. 1589 and 1590); and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. sec. 1962).[1]

On December 25, 2019, PAHO filed a motion to transfer the case from the U.S. District court for the Southern District of Florida to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia, which was denied by the U.S. Magistrate on May 23, 2019, and without explanation the docket sheet ends on July 2, 2019 with an entry for an Order setting the hearing on the transfer motion for July 18, 2019.

That status of the case is correct, according to a January 22, 2020, report by the Cuba Money Project, because plaintiffs’ counsel has not attempted to serve process on PAHO under 28 U.S.C. sec. 1330(b), 1608.[2]

Although PAHO never responded to the Complaint or Amended Compliant in the federal court in Miami, its motion to transfer the case to the federal court in the District of Colombia stated that after transfer it would file a motion to dismiss the complaint and amended complaint on the ground that PAHO is immune from this lawsuit. In addition, PAHO summarized the bases for its immunity claim as follows: [3]

  • The U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act’s section 1330(b) “is the exclusive venue provision for cases against foreign states and, by extension via the International Organizations Immunities Act, designated International Organizations such as PAHO. . . [and provides] venue in this case is proper, if anywhere, only in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.”
  •   Moreover, “PAHO enjoys both absolute immunity under international law, 21 U.S.T. 1418 (Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations), and all of the immunities “from suit and every form of judicial process” enjoyed by foreign governments under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 22 U.S.C. § 288a(b).”

More recently the Wall Street Journal’s anti-Cuba columnist, Mary Anastasia O’Grady, focused on Cuba’s now discontinued medical mission to Brazil and to this lawsuit. She merely said this lawsuit is still in the pre-trial stage, and PAHO’s motion to transfer the case to the District of Colombia is pending.[4] That technically is true, but reveals a failure to investigate.

This blogger as a retired attorney has not tried to verify PAHO’s immunity claim or to ask plaintiffs’ counsel why they have not proceeded with the case, but the most plausible explanation is that they concluded that they had little chance of defeating the immunity defense.

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[1] Class Action Complaint, Rodriguez v. Pan American Health Organization, Case 1:18-cv-24995-DPG (S.D. FL Nov. 30, 2018); First Amended Class Action Complaint, Case 1:18-cv-24995-DPG (S.D. FL  Dec. 26, 2018.

[2] Was lawsuit over Cuban doctors a publicity stunt?, Cuba Money Project (Jan. 22, 2020).

[3] Putative Defendant Pan American Health Organization’s Objections to and Appeal from Magistrate Judge’s Denial of Motion To Transfer This Action to the District of Columbia, Rodriguez v. Pan American Health Organization, Case NO. 1-18-cv-24995-DPG (S.D. Fla. June 6, 2019).

[4] O’Grady, The U.N. and Human Trafficking, W.S.J. (Jan. 26, 2020).

 

 

 

State Department Memorializes Secretary Pompeo’s Visit to the Holy See

As discussed in a prior post, on October 2, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited the Holy See in Rome for various activities. Thereafter the State Department memorialized the main points of that visit. [1] Here is a summary of that document.

The State Department Document

Celebration of 35 Years of U.S.-Holy See Diplomatic Relations

“This year marks 35 years of formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See. When President Reagan established the U.S. Embassy in 1984, he said it “would exist to the benefit of peace-loving people, everywhere.”  Today we share a global partnership based on common values, mutual respect, and moral leadership.”

“Our relationship is as strong as ever. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Holy See to promote human rights, advance religious freedom, combat human trafficking, and seek peaceful solutions to crises around the world.”

U.S.-Holy See Symposium  on Faith-Based Organizations

The statement claimed that Symposium was “co-hosted by the Holy See’s Secretariat of State and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See” and was “a direct result of the Secretary’s July 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.”

U.S.-Holy See Prioritize Promoting Religious Freedom Globally

 “The protection of religious freedom is central to the Trump administration’s foreign policy and the protection of this unalienable human right is an essential part of who we are as Americans. The Holy See has long been a global champion of this universal right. Securing and defending religious freedom is a priority we both share.”

U.S.-Holy See Partner To Combat Human Trafficking

 “The Holy See and the United States share a common commitment to the fight against human trafficking, and the Holy See is a valued partner through its will and capacity to prevent and address this heinous crime.”

U.S. and Holy See Are Two of World’s Greatest Humanitarian Forces

“The Holy See. . . is one of the greatest humanitarian forces in the world. It maintains a vast network, second only to the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent.”

“The United States is the world’s most generous provider of humanitarian aid, but delivering that aid successfully and efficiently requires partnerships with governments like the Holy See. By maintaining and strengthening diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the United States benefits from its unparalleled global presence.”

Reactions

This document promotes the view that the Trump Administration is a strong advocate of religious freedom and is embraced by the Holy See. It also states that this Administration is fervently against human trafficking without mentioning its unfounded argument that Cuba’s foreign medical mission program is engaged in that activity. This document may also be seen as fodder for President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign if he survives impeachment.

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[1] State Dep’t, The United States and the Holy See: Partners in Advancing Religious Freedom, Combating Human Trafficking, and Promoting Human Rights (Oct. 3, 2019).